WASHINGTON Federal officials have opened a preliminary investigation of 2004-05 Toyota Prius hybrid cars to determine whether a safety defect is responsible for consumer complaints about engine stalling.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received 33 complaints from drivers. Most say they were traveling between 35 and 65 mph when the incidents occurred. In about half the cases, the reports say, the vehicles would not restart and had to be towed.
The Prius is the nations most popular gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. Its success has spurred other automakers to make or expand plans for hybrid cars and trucks.
NHTSA estimates that about 75,000 Prius cars would have to be recalled if the investigation identifies a defect.